Not many high school students can say they’ve sat in a presidential “situation room,” but some students at Parish Episcopal School can check that off their lists.
That’s because Parish has been teaming with the George W. Bush Presidential Center to offer kids a chance to enhance their research and critical-thinking skills.
“We’re endeavoring just to make it as rich as possible, to try and have some level of partnership at each division: the lower school, the middle school, and the upper school,” Parish librarian Leigh Ann Jones said. “So there are a variety of projects that we have worked with them on.”
The high school students in AP history classes took a trip to the Bush Center’s mock situation room and conducted a Socratic-style seminar on historical issues and modern comparisons. Meanwhile, fourth-graders learned about the different “hats” that make up the president’s role, and second-graders studied biographies of first ladies and former presidents.
Middle school students also studied important decisions in American history.
“It’s a very different experience,” said senior Maverick Salyards, who participates in Parish’s Academy of Global Studies. “You’re sitting there with the big presidential seal above you and the big wooden table. It’s very formal, and definitely adds a greater impact. It’s very cool to be in that room.”
Those students also went through the museum to observe, and even got to do some research with primary-source documents during their trip.
“They have so much information,” Salyards said. “It’s a benefit for me personally to get out of the classroom and not be in the same room every single day. It’s something new and different, and a fun place to be.”
The partnership developed thanks to Parish head of school David Monaco and Bush Center director Alan Lowe.
The collaboration began in November 2013.
“Parish approached us about partnering, and we had already started talking about creating a series of school partnerships, so this was a natural fit,” Lowe said. “We wanted this relationship to help ensure we are creating materials that are truly useful for teachers and students, and to ensure our resources and our educational potential are being fully utilized.”
Not only are classes able to use the library for academic purposes, but upper-school teachers are also working on a specific curriculum to utilize the Bush Center’s Freedom Collection in particular.
“We’re going to take those students to the library,” Jones said. “Then they’re going to do a walk-through to look for elements in the museum that relate to this unit of study.”
Jones said a lesson will also be built around that visit specifically.
Parish’s relationship, too, is meant to “beta-test” programs that might be available for other campuses to work with the Bush Center in the future.
“We said from the beginning that we wanted to test curriculum with our partner schools,” Lowe said. “That is underway right now at Parish with a curriculum we hope to announce next year.”
This story appears in the January edition of Park Cities People, on stands now.